Prospect D'Agostino has listened, learned from many

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Defenseman Nick D'Agostino has not been able to attend a Penguins fall training camp or a preseason rookie tournament with other prospects in the organization, but he has had several avenues for learning a lot about the NHL and pro sports in general.

The first would be the Penguins' summer development camps. At 23, he is five years removed from being selected by the Penguins in the seventh round of the 2008 NHL draft.

"I've been coming to these camps for five, six years now, so I know it's a high level of play," D'Agostino said as this year's development camp, held last week, was winding down.

"This is probably the most talent that we've had. There are a lot of good players, a lot of high-end picks. It's always nice to get down here."

Another lesson D'Agostino got about the NHL -- and even the NFL and NBA -- came in the classroom at Cornell. He graduated this year with a degree in industrial and labor relations, and the lockouts that those three major pro leagues endured the past couple of years were a discussion point.

"You'd be surprised how the sports world is a microcosm for labor relations, stuff like that," he said. "We've been learning about that all along."

With an Ivy League degree, D'Agostino is interested in following some of the other students in his major to law school, but not just yet, and maybe not for several years.

"I'm going to try hockey, see what happens," D'Agostino said. "Once I'm done, I'm going to try to take advantage of that awesome degree I got and maybe try my hand at law school."

Now that he's out of college eligibility and signed by the Penguins -- a two-year, entry-level deal -- D'Agostino can delve into being a pro player. He can attend training camp in September and is a candidate to play at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League this season, although the Penguins have a stable of strong defensive prospects.

At Cornell, in Ithaca, N.Y., D'Agostino was in the vicinity of AHL teams in Syracuse and Binghamton, and the native of Bolton, Ontario, tracks the Toronto Marlies in the same league, so he has a feel for the level of play in the league.

Then there are his Cornell connections.

"From my freshman year to my senior year, there are probably six [former teammates] who have played in the NHL," D'Agostino said, rattling off the names of Colin Greening in Ottawa, Ben Scrivens in Los Angeles, Riley Nash in Carolina and Sean Collins in Columbus.

"My best friend who I grew up with at home, Nick Crawford, is in the Buffalo Sabres organization. He's already finished his third pro season. He helps me out a lot."

As immersed as D'Agostino is in hockey, one other source for advice on being a pro athlete is his father, Paul, who played in the North American Soccer League with Calgary, Memphis and Toronto.

"It's not hockey, but he was a pro, too, so I've learned a lot from him," he said. "Just how to be a pro. My dad's really big on work ethic and being humble, controlling what you can control. He was my coach from when I was 4 or 5 years old, and he maybe missed a handful of my games at Cornell.

"He tried to get me into soccer, too. I played until I was 16, 17 years old, but eventually I had to make a decision."

Now that D'Agostino, 6 feet 2 and 197 pounds, has reached the point of being a pro hockey player, he can add the instruction from coaches and staff in the Penguins organization to his list of resources, but how he progresses is in large part up to him.

He arrived at Cornell mostly an offensive defenseman, and 10 of his 25 career goals there came on the power-play.

"I was maybe a little bit too risky in my play," he said of his pre-college days. "That's one of the reasons I chose to go to Cornell, to develop my defensive game. I think I've turned into a pretty decent two-way defenseman. I really worked on my defensive side and my play without the puck at Cornell to where I can be relied on in late-game situations, play the penalty kill, as well as contributing on offense when I can."

In the prospect scrimmage Saturday that marked the end of development camp, D'Agostino drew a penalty and, with no special teams play in the game, got awarded a penalty shot.

He skated in on goaltender Sean Maguire, deked and ripped a shot off the right post.

"I thought I made a pretty decent move," D'Agostino said with a big smile. "I just wanted to get the goalie moving left to right and try to beat him. I just hit the post."

A little later in the scrimmage, he found yet another tutor for this game of hockey, a fellow Penguins prospect who scored on a penalty shot.

"[Winger] Scott Wilson showed me how to do it," D'Agostino said. "He pulled the same move, and he put it upstairs."

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For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.


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